Theresa May hardly needs another row this week after losing one of her special advisers as a result of last week’s bust-up. But the occupational hazard of running the Home Office is that one of its agencies can suddenly spin out of control, and you’re the one left trying to end the chaos.
The Passport Office is always a prime candidate for this sort of trouble, not least because its operations are the kind of things that, when they go wrong, can really upset voters. Not much point in pontificating from the dispatch box about budgets for hardworking families when they find they can’t take the holidays they’ve been working hard to afford.
Whether this at all damages May – who tends to emerge from Home Office rows unscathed – depends on whether the latest batch of delayed applications is down to the Passport Office being disorganised or a ministerial decision causing problems. But a combination of May’s efficacy as Home Secretary and a failure on the part of the Opposition to cause or capitalise on Home Office rows means she’s unlikely to see this as a political threat. She certainly doesn’t see it as being serious enough for her to need to go on the defensive personally: the minister answering the questions on the Today programme this morning was James Brokenshire. Given May is a famous micromanager, that she’s prepared to leave one of her juniors to do this job suggests she does not see the delays at the Passport Office as a serious problem for her department.